The Second War of Italian Unification 1859-61, Frederick C. Schneid

The Second War of Italian Unification 1859-61, Frederick C. Schneid

Essential Histories 74

The Second War of Italian Unification was really three separate conflicts. The first lasted from April to July 1859 and involved France and Piedmont on one side and Austrian on the other. After this conflict Piedmont gained Lombardy. A number of the minor Italian principalities joined Piedmont more or less peacefully early in 1860. The second conflict began in May 1860 when Garibaldi invaded Sicily, then part of the Kingdom of Naples. Most of the rest of the kingdom fell by the end of the year, although King Francis II held out in Gaeta until February 1861. The third conflict overlapped with the second and saw Piedmont invade and conquer the Papal States. By the end of these wars the newly formed Kingdom of Italy included all of Italy apart from the Venetia in the north-east and the city of Rome, which remained under Papal rule for another decade.

Schneid's account of the war starts with an examination of the Italian Peninsula from the Napoleonic Period, which first saw a Kingdom of Italy (albeit one imposed by Napoleon), to 1848 - the year of revolutions - and the First War of Italian Unification, an unsuccessful attempt by Piedmont to push the Austrians out of northern Italy. We then look at the major players in Italy before unification and the events that led up to the war.

About a third of the book covers the events of the war itself (or themselves). The account is clearly written, and better balanced than some other material I've read on this topic (in particular the battle of Solferino doesn't dominate quite as much as in some accounts of the war). In the last part of the book the author picks out two eye witnesses, looks at the wider European diplomacy and how a wider war was avoided, and follows events to their conclusion with the capture of Rome and the Venetia.

This is a nicely written account of one of the more important wars of the Nineteenth Century; a conflict that saw Italy unified and that had an impact on the European situation that played a part in the unification of Germany

Background to war: The Risorgimento as war and revolution, 1815-49
Warring Sides: The Italian Kingdoms, France and Austria
Outbreak: Revolutions, plots and planning
The fighting: The Second War of Italian Unification, 1859-61
Portrait of a Soldier: Guiseppe Cesare Abba and Garibaldi's Thousand
The world around war: The threat of a general European war
Portrait of a civilian: An anonymous Neapolitan account
How the war ended: From Villafranca to Gaeta
Conclusion and consequences

Author: Frederick C. Schneid
Edition: Paperback
Pages: 96
Publisher: Osprey
Year: 2012

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